Killing Daddy in the Great Outdoors

Unassuming amidst Mona’s installation of the vertiginous Schatzkammer of outsider art, the Museum of Everything, [1] hung a quiet work by 19th-century English painter Richard Dadd. The watercolour, entitled The Packet Delayed, depicts a dandy couple of compatriots: with rolled up pants, one’s outstretched arm grasping onto his friend (or is it his own semblable, his doppelganger?) while clinging to a vine-entangled lattice, the other reaching for their capsized toy packet boat. Painted at the State Criminal Lunatic Department at Bethlem Hospital, London, in 1854—around the same time as Dadd’s Passions series—it apparently depicts his ‘reminiscences of childhood with a total lack of sentimentality’. [2] I’m not so convinced by that. The Packet instead seems to me to function as a purloined letter, a Flaschenpost, always arriving as a shipwrecked message in a bottle at its destination: in this instance, Van Diemen’s Land.

[1] Museum of Everything, Mona (Museum of Old and New Art), Berriedale, Tasmania, 10 June 2017 – 2 April 2018.

[2] Patricia Allderidge, Richard Dadd, Academy Editions, London, 1974, p. 103.



The Hobart Town Courier
Friday 12 August 1836

Air Jordan

Robyn Adler practices art, philosophy and psychoanalysis. At the Victorian College of the Arts, Centre for Ideas, she is currently conducting PhD research on the contemporary imaginary and flight from judgement in art criticism.